Behind the scenes
Covent Garden is taking you on a walk around the neighbourhood, exploring the buildings where if the walls could talk they would tell you some of the most incredible history from London‘s past. For this, it is best to get off a Leicester Square and use exit 4 to start your journey up Long Acre.
Dame Margot Fonteyn (1919-1991) was a legendary ballerina who made the ballet fashionable and truly accessible. She was a dancer with the Royal Ballet and was described as one of the most elegant, gracious and greatest performer of her time. Fonteyn was living round the corner in Flat 9, 118 Long Acre in Covent Garden.
The National Sporting Club (1891-1929) was responsible for establishing the sport of boxing in Great Britain. The founder of this club was John Fleming and A.F “Peggy” Bettinson. The National Sporting Club was located at 43 King Street in Covent Garden, which is now Galleria Melissa.
Thomas Augustine Arne (1710-1778) was a British composer. He wrote the National Anthem, ‘Rule, Britannia!’ amongst others. He worked on Drury Lane, Covent Garden and was the leading British theatre composer of his time. This plaque is located on the 31 King Street where Thomas used to live, which is now between the Claudie Pierlot and Jo Malone London stores.
The first mention of Dickens on this walk comes from Rose Street
The Lamb and Flag is a Grade II listed public house at Rose Street, Covent Garden. The building is said to date back to Tudor times with the building became a pub in 1772 and Charles Dickens’ local in the 19th Century.
Rumour has it, the pub's upstairs room once hosted bare-knuckle prize fights leading to it being nicknamed "The Bucket of Blood". A plaque on the building commemorates an attack on John Dryden in a nearby alley in 1679, when Charles II sent men to assault Dryden in objection to a satirical verse against Louise de Kérouaille, who was Charles II's mistress.
William Shipley (1715-1803) was an English social reformer, inventor and the founder of The Royal Society of Arts in 1754. The aim of this society was to promote arts in the United Kingdom. The site where he founded this society, at 25 Henrietta Street, is marked with a Green Plaque.
Jane Austen (1775-1817) the English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and comment upon the British gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen's work explored the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favourable social standing and economic security. Jane occupied a flat at 10 Henrietta Street in Covent Garden.
William Terriss (1847-1897) was an English actor known for his heroic portrayal of Robin Hood and his revered Shakespearean performances. In 1897, whilst he was entering the Adelphi Theatre in Maiden Lane, he was murdered by actor, Richard Archer Prince. The Green Plaque above the stage door of the Adelphi Theatre at 18-20 Maiden Lane where William met his end.
Voltaire (1694-1778) was one of the greatest Enlightenment French writer, playwright and philosopher. Voltaire was well known for his works like Candide, Zaïre and his historical study ‘The Age of Louis XXIV’. In order to escape an almost-certain prison sentence in the notorious Bastille, Voltaire entered into an agreed exile and arrived in London where, for a time, the writer lived at 10 Maiden Land WC2E, in a house kept by an old French barber.
Ambrose Godfrey was also known as Gottfried Hanckewitz (1660-1741) and was famous for having invented the fire extinguisher. He was one of the most successful manufacturer and apothecary of his time. At the corner of Maiden Lane and Southampton Street is the site where Ambrose used to work and live when he was chemist.
Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created the world’s most famous fictional characters and has been recognised as the greatest novelist of the Victorian period. He actually has two Blue Plaques in Covent Garden. The first one is at Charles’ offices where he used to publish his periodical ‘All The Year Round’. The Plaque can be seen when you turn the corner from Tavistock Street into Wellington Street. The second Blue Plaque, where Dickens worked as a child, is located at the corner of Chandos Place and Bedford Street, right above the T.G.I Friday’s restaurant.
Thomas de Quincy (1785-1859) was an English essayist who is well-known for his ‘Confessions of an English Opium-Eater’. The Blue Plaque to commemorate him is located at 36 Tavistock St in Covent Garden on the Café Murano building where he wrote his most famous works.
On to 8 Russell Street (now Balthazar) you will find a Blue Plaque marking the place where Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784) first met James Boswell in 1763. Dr. Johnson, contributed to English literature and was a poet, essayist, moralist, literacy critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. James Boswell (1740-1795) was a Scottish biographer and diarist who was born in Edinburgh.
The building was occupied by Thomas Davies (a bookseller) at that time. In 1791, James Boswell wrote the ‘Life of Samuel Johnson’.